John's Reviews > The Falls

The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
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M 50x66
's review
Aug 29, 2009

did not like it
bookshelves: nearly-thrown-in-disgust
Read in August, 2009

My first JCO book and possibly my last. Some great ideas and stunning imagery, but The Falls got on my nerves pretty fast. Oates' pen tends to linger for pages (and pages and pages)on events that other writers would condense into one or two sentences. In particular, the play-by-play on hotel staff handling a woman whose husband just threw himself into Niagara Falls was excruciating. That Oates intermittently punctuates her descriptions by italicizing the mostly cliched inner thoughts of her characters was too much for me. Penelope Fitzgerald once said, "I always feel the reader is very insulted by being told too much." Apparently, this is not a concern shared by Joyce Carol Oates. I waved the white flag around page 80. Perhaps if I had hung around longer, the Ariah character might have started to make sense and maybe I would have found that Oates fleshed out more complex reasons for her husband's suicide other than that he was gay in the 50s. In a pretty cool epigraph, Oates seems to be setting the stage for a mysterious suicide - that the Falls will cast a spell on an otherwise unlikely jumper. Instead her closeted gay husband premeditates his death in the hotel room, leaves a note, and makes a beeline for the falls. How uninteresting.
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